Columbus Day has become synonymous with Italian Heritage Day, the day when Italian Americans remember the sacrifices made by their parents and grandparents, and the contributions Italian Americans have made in the U.S.
The time-honored Columbus Day parades began in the late 1800s as Italian immigrants strived to create a sense of self-esteem and dignity during a period where they were subjected to bigotry and prejudice throughout the country.
The Great Arrival
The vast majority of first generation Italian immigrants took their first steps on U.S. soil at Ellis Island, following a grueling Atlantic voyage. In the 1880s, they numbered 300,000; in the 1890s, 600,000; and through the turn of the century, more than two million. By 1920, when waves of migration began to taper off, more than 4 million Italians had come to the United States, which represented more than 10 percent of the nation’s foreign-born population.
Today, there are more than 18 million Italian Americans that carry on traditions and represent a heritage that has permeated American culture.
During Italian American Heritage Month, we rally together at Columbus Day parades across the nation, celebrating history, traditions and values as a culture.
Columbus’s journey launched 500 years of immigration to America, attracting peoples from throughout the world seeking a better life for their families — this is the spirit we champion and seek to preserve.
We plan on marching, cheering and celebrating our holiday while continuing to respect other cultures, and we hope you do the same.